GAME FOUR: THE GREAT HOUSTON HEIST

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By Ted Gay  –  @TedG63

During a season of 108 wins, there were some games the Red Sox had no business winning. Last night’s victory the Astros was the greatest of the season may be in their history, and absolutely necessary. No team wins the World Series without stealing a game or two.

The Sox batters should not have been able to keep scoring against a strong Astros bullpen. Joe West overstepped in calling fan interference.  Rick Porcello battled for four innings with nothing but guts and guile.  And somehow Craig Kimbrel got six outs, thanks to questionable Astros base running and incredible Sox outfield defense, including an eye-popping diving Andrew Benintendi catch that surpassed Dwight Evans’ Game Six 1975 over the shoulder catch as the most memorable in Sox history.  It was another October classic delivered by baseball’s two best teams.

Almost every Sox player who took the field contributed to the win.  Steve Pearce worked two walks and performed an inspiring suicide dive into the Astros dugout (even if it was more Brie Bella than Sasha Banks), Brock Holt waited out a run-scoring walk, Ian Kinsler snagged one of Kimbrel’s outs with a difficult bucket catch, Xander Bogaerts drove in two, as did Rafael Devers, Benenendi saved the game, JBJ homered again, Mookie Betts did a lot of Mookie Betts’ stuff, Christian Vasquez had a key double, Sandy Leon managed to keep Kimbrel’s unpredictable pitches in front of him, Porcello kept the Sox in the game, Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes were nails and at least Kimbrel kept the ball in the park.

This series is exciting even between games. The Astros were accused, and cleared, by an investigation, Judge Kavanaugh would call “fast” of using a spy to steal signs.  The Sox announced Chris Sale would not pitch Game 5 because of his mysterious stomach ailment, which may have been caused by Sale splitting a sub with an Astros clubhouse attendant after Game One.  We can’t put anything past them now.

Game Four was not a must win for the Astros, but the game before a must win.  If they lost, there was no room for error. With nothing but question marks pitching wise the next two games Alex Cora stuck with a struggling Rick Porcello far longer than he would have liked.  Credit to Porcello for not having his best stuff but continuing to battle, and often losing, like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It took a herculean effort by Mookie Betts, leaping, hanging, and getting his glove under a Jose Altuve bomb, before a fan, who, in his defense, was looking up, caused Betts’ glove to close.  Those of us who have had the pleasure of watching Mookie throughout his career knew from his eyes that he had the ball before his glove hit the fan. Joe West’s thirst for the spotlight worked in the Sox’s favor as the rotund ump ruled fan interference, a call roundly criticized.  NewYork could not get a definitive look at the catch, thanks to a Astros’ security guard who blocked the camera by the right field foul pole and the call stood. Astros fans can whine that it cost the Astros a win. At best it cost them a tie and the way the Astros played the Sox still would have found a way to win.

As a baseball fan, it was hard not to have a bit of pity for the Astros fans after the first.  Charlie Moore began the Astros most crucial game of the season by hitting Betts then, after an out, walking Martinez.  These two runners would come around to score, as free passes tend to do in this series, on a Rafael Devers, hitting in front of Steve Pearce, single.  Morton’s shaky first, followed by Betts’ leap and West’s call, would have, if it were the Sox and not the Astros, have caused an apocalyptic yawp of frustration to echo throughout New England.

But these are not common baseball teams who collapse in tune with their fans frustration.  The Astros recognized Porcello was struggling and they waited him out, cutting the lead in half on a Carlos Correa single in the second, then, after Morton further pushed his fans towards the brink by allowing a third run when Xander Boegarts drove in Andrew Benintendi, responded with a George Springer home run and a Josh Reddick RBI single to pull even again.

At this point, the two teams were like boxers throwing haymakers at one another.  The Astros went ahead with a Tony Kemp home run, the Sox came back as Boegarts and Benintendi combined for another run, and then, with Porcello spent, Cora turned to The Joe Kelly Fight Club consisting of one man continually punching himself in the face.  He almost got out of the fifth unscathed but with two outs he allowed Yuri Gurriel, who had singled, to take second on a wild pitch, another unforced error, and the Astros took advantage when Correa drove him home for a 5-4 lead. Back came the Sox, with two outs in the sixth, getting bottom of the order magic from a Christian Vasquez single and yet another JBJ Houston home run to take the lead.

In came Eduardo Rodriguez to pitch the bottom half and after walking the ninth man in the order out went Eduardo Rodriguez as his relevance to this organization lessens with each appearance in a tight game. Ryan Braiser continued rolling sevens by retiring Bregman, Springer, and Altuve, the Astros death lineup to escape the inning.

A miscue by Correa, trying to get away with a phantom play at second base, missing the bag, a force on Martinez and the chance of an inning-ending double play lead to the Astros gifting another run when Lance McCullers walked Brock Holt with the bases loaded, a double unforced error putting the Sox up two with three to go.

They would bring it up to three when Martinez plated Betts then came Cora’s Grady Little moment. He brought Craig Kimbrel for either a six out walk.  He induced Tony Kemp to smash out right field to second. All is well. He then hit Bregman, gave up a double to Springer, three consecutive men on but thanks to Mookie and Kemp one out.  Altuve brought Bregman home on a groundout and Kimbrel struck out Marwin Gonzalez for his one clean out of the inning. The mind reeled with the possibility of Kimbrel in the ninth.

Suddenly, Astros fan Jim Ross stood up and yelled: “Oh my God!  Is that David Price’s music?”. Forget Kimbrel in the eighth. This would have been the greatest risk ever undertaken by a Sox manager.

But Price remained in pen as Kimbrel, like Rocky vs. Ivan Drago, somehow stayed standing long enough to win.

The Sox need one more win facing Justin Verlander tonight against David Price.  A tall order for the Sox but no taller than pulling out game four.

BENNY & THE BETTS PODCAST – ALCS GAME 3 POST GAME REACTION!

EOVALDI DOES HIS JOB!     JBJ HAS CAREER DEFINING GRANDSLAM!     ASTROS CAUGHT CHEATING AT FENWAY w/ VIDEO CAMERA!

Also avail on #itunes #spotify #spreaker #stitcher

 

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